Photo by Jeff Vorva
Dejected Brother Rice players watch St. Laurence celebrate a sectional victory Saturday at St. Rita.
It took a long time to say goodbye.
A half hour after the St. Laurence baseball team had its season come to an end with a 2-0 loss to Plainfield North Monday night in front of a crowd of 1,797 in the Crestwood Class 4A Supersectional, the players finally trudged from right field to the third base side of Standard Bank Stadium and climbed the steps into the near empty stands. It seemed like they just didn’t want the season to end.
For most of the time, the team hugged, consoled and talked. It was a special season for the Vikings to get this far and even though it hurt to lose, coach Pete Lotus was happy to experience a season in which the team (31-8) got this far for the first time in more than 20 years.
The offense struggled, mustering one hit and one walk against Tigers lefthander Tyler Garrity, who some say is the third best pitcher on the Tiger staff. Vikings’ pitcher Anthony Robles gave up two runs in the first but he and Angel Sandoval threw zeros the rest of the way. Left fielder Zach Verta made a huge play in the sixth inning when he caught a fly with the bases loaded and threw Jake Dunham out at the plate. But the Vikings weren’t able to maintain the momentum into the final inning and the Tigers (33-3) celebrated.
“I can’t say enough about our guys – I’m so proud,” Lotus said. “They have nothing to be ashamed of. Obviously I wish it would have worked out. It’s always hard to say goodbye to our seniors. Nobody is happy unless you win that last one. But I know those guys will never forget what they accomplished.’’
On Saturday, the Vikings won their first sectional title in 1993, when Lotus was a player, with a 4-3 shocker over Brother Rice, which was ranked 11th in the nation according to USA Today and No. 1 in the state according to Prep Baseball Report at St. Rita.
St. Laurence trailed 3-1 heading into the fifth when John Peterson scored on a wild pitch, Tom Farrell stole home on a double steal and Jimmy Burnette singled home pinch runner Joe Hincks in the inning to take a 4-3 lead. Relief pitcher Joe Vascik caught a line drive and turned it into a double play to end the sixth inning and struck out Brother Rice star slugger Ryan Kutt in the seventh with a runner on second to end the game.
“The players will never forget that game and I’ll never forget that game,” Lotus said.
“It meant the world to us,” Verta said.
In the sectional semifinals, Brother Rice was six outs away from being vanquished by host St. Rita last Thursday. The Crusaders trailed 3-1 but Kutt slammed a two-run homer in the sixth and Jack Guzek drove home pinch runner Anthony Mastro in the seventh to escape with a 4-3 victory in front of an estimated crowd of 1,000 fans.
St. Laurence made it to the sectional final with a 9-5 victory over Mt. Carmel as Tom Farrell opened the scoring by stealing home. The Vikings scored the first five runs of the game and hung on to the win. Angel Sandoval picked up the victory. Brother Rice finished 35-4.
Brooks Sectional: In Class 3A play, seventh-seeded Evergreen Park suffered a 15-6 loss to eighth-seeded De La Salle in the title game on Saturday and the Mustangs finished 17-18.
The Mustangs reached the title game with a 6-4 victory over third-seeded Harlan last Thursday.
Joe Martin slammed a three-run homer and winning pitcher Pat Doran had an RBI single. Doran came into the game in relief and worked out of a base-loaded jam in the fifth before blanking Harlan in the final two frames.
At Providence: Marist dropped an 8-7, 10-inning heartbreaker in the sectional semifinals on June 1.
The RedHawks (20-18) opened the game with a Brad Wood two-run homer in the first but trailed 6-2 after four frames. Marist rallied to tie the game and send it into extra innings. Bobby Gorman’s three-run blast gave the RedHawks hope.
Marist’s John Carmody had an RBI single in the ninth, but North tied it and won it in the 10th on a sacrifice fly.
At Lincoln-Way West: In Class 3A action, Chicago Christian lost another tight sectional game, this time a 2-1 setback to Herscher in the semifinals on June 1. Dan Vos struck out 13 in the loss and Tyler Edgar had an RBI double for the Knights’ (27-11) lone run.
This is the Knights first year in Class 3A and coincidentally, it is Herscher’s first year in that class as well. In the past six year, Herscher has edged the Knights out of sectional play three times – 3-2 in 2-12, 8-6 in 2015 and 2-1 this season.